It's been said that laughter is the best medicine, and during the Circa '21 Speakeasy’s Friday-night production of The Rocky Horror Show, I got a really good dose of it. Bret and Erin Churchill, who co-directed and choreographed the show, have put together a fast-paced, high-energy production full of terrific singing and hilarious fun.

When director Catherine Bodenbender took center stage at the show's precise curtain time, she reminded the audience to silence their phones and provided a few additional tidbits of information. And then – like a stage manager would typically do behind the scenes – she yelled, “Actors: Places!”, and the cast marched out from their backstage dressing area and took their seats behind the audience. I thought: “This is gonna be cool.”

As soon as the Countess speaks in Jeff Coussens' production, the play is elevated to a new and higher realm entirely. This is, in part, due to the character as written, for the Madwoman sees into the heart of humanity and into the soul of life with the depth and perception of no ordinary human being. This is such a wonderfully endearing and funny role and, not least of all, a very demanding one, and I initially wondered how someone so young would manage it. But from the moment she first spoke, MJ Mason was in complete mastery of her character, and I was smitten.

Not to alarm anyone, but I think there may be a typo in the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's program for The Diviners, because it credits Mike Skiles for the show's “Set Construction.” I'm pretty sure that's meant to say “No-Set Construction,” given that there's literally no set for director Jalayne Riewerts' production – just Richmond Hill's traditional theatre-in-the-round space decorated by occasional props. That's not at all meant as a put-down. This touching, graceful take on playwright Jim Leonard Jr.'s period drama succeeds primarily because of its bare-bones, Our Town-esque simplicity, and those qualities, happily, are mirrored in the engaged, heartfelt portrayals by Riewerts' cast.

At the opening night for the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's Ring of Fire, the show began with its eight-person cast, one by one, declaring, “I am Johnny Cash.” Throughout the performance, they all at some point embodied the spirit of “The Man in Black.” And while the production boasts a 34-song set list covering much of Cash’s long songwriting career, I use the phrase “set list” intentionally, because the production does feel more like a concert than a traditional musical.

Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None – the story of murder on a remote island – was published in 1939 and adapted into a play in 1943, and is one of the top-10 bestsellers of all time. If you like the game Clue, or just a good whodunnit, you will likely enjoy this mystery, as the audience is taken on a suspenseful ride that's filled with twists and turns until its last scene. And while the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's current presentation of the piece, under the direction of Cynthia Safford, has a straightforward approach and is less scary than some productions I’ve seen, it's still effective.

On the night of August 25, this one spoken line stuck in my head like newly poured concrete – clammy and heavy while slowly thickening in my mind. I can only imagine that most of us have been stuck at some point, but this didn't refer to the everyday kind of stuck. It wasn't about something normal such as being trapped in traffic, or having writer's block, or doing the same workout over and over. No, this question asked in a play referred to an endless hamster wheel of shame and humiliation stigmatized by one poor life choice.

British farce, when done well, is some of my favorite entertainment, and I personally enjoy the fact that the comedy series Fawlty Towers is set in the seaside town of Torquay, England, which happens to be my birthplace. Hoping for the best, on Friday night I attended the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's production of authors Philip King's and Falkland L. Cary's Big ... Bad ... Mouse! I was a bit disappointed, however, to find that this 1964 show's overall pacing and tone were more representative of broad American comedy than illustrative of “proper” English farce.

Given its completely sold-out run, it’s hard to say that you should rush to get your tickets to see the Black Box Theatre’s production of Rock of Ages. But for those lucky enough to have tickets – or to find some way to get them – you're in for a good time.

I am biased. Because as a former member (1985-86) of our area's performing wait staff of Bootleggers, I watched No Business Like Show Business feeling proud, and even blessed, to experience this stage retrospective – a celebration of the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's 40 years of producing live theatre in the Quad Cities.

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